A saying I've heard for years is that the trip getting to and from the track is sometimes more exciting than the race itself. This past week I went to Charlotte to pick up a racecar for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
On my way up, I blew not one, but two tires on the trailer, and both were within about 10 miles apart. It was so unbelievable that it was almost humorous. Sure, it was a little frustrating at the time, but once I had two new tires on it and back on my journey, I couldn't help but laugh. It reminded me of one of my favorite stories involving Georgia Racing Hall of Famer and Dawsonville native, Gober Sosebee.
Back in the early days of stock car racing, a majority of racers flat-towed their cars to the track. Some just drove the race car and removed the headlights once they got to the track. Hall of Famer, Raymond Parks (who we talked about last week) was known to have his cars ride on a flatbed truck.
Gober was of the group that would flat-tow his racecar behind the family sedan. One time in particular in the late 1940s, on a trip to Daytona Beach was especially memorable, more so than the race itself. It was already night by the time Gober was leaving Atlanta for Daytona. And of course, at that time I-75 and I-95 weren't even a thought yet. To help paint the picture, it was Gober and his wife, Vaudell, along with two of their friends. Gober had worked around the clock for a few days between his day job at the garage and getting his racecar prepared to go, so needless to say, he needed some shuteye before he was to qualify his racecar the next day. He agreed to sleep in the back of the tow car, a 42' Buick, while the friend drove.
The only problem was the friend had never actually towed anything before. Sometime in the early morning hours, Gober and the others woke as the Buick went off the road. It then jackknifed and the momentum and speed forced the rig up a slight hill and jumped an embankment. Imagine waking up to that.
After assessing the situation, Sosebee figured the only way to get back on the road without a tow truck, was to back the Buick up, get a running start and jump back to the road. So that's what he did, with the racecar still hooked behind. While he did exactly what he said he was going to, he busted the radiator in the process and tore off the front bumper. The racecar however didn't receive a scratch.
So, at 3 or 4 am, with the tow car out of commission, the nearest service station miles away and qualifying for the Daytona Beach race later that morning Sosebee decided the best decision was to unhook his 39' Ford from behind the Buick tow car and swap the two. Sosebee's wife and friends rode in the Buick and slept while Gober pulled the rest of the distance in the Ford.
As they continued on through small towns, Gober noticed that some oncoming traffic would flash their lights at him or honk their horns and wave. It didn't phase the veteran racer, as he thought people were just waving at a racecar driving down the road. What he didn't know was that a track bar broke in the accident causing the rear end of the Buick to shift side to side, which caused the tire to come right off the wheel.
The ladies riding in the Buick first tried to honk the horn to tell Gober to pull over. Unfortunately, the racecar was very loud, so he didn't hear it. Then they tried to use the brakes to slow him down, but every time Gober felt a little resistance, he would just apply more throttle to overcome that. As miles and miles progressed, sparks soon showered the road behind the Buick.
Unfortunately for Gober, it can be hard to see out of the back of a 39 Ford Coupe as they were notorious for a small rearview mirror and two small rear windows. No side mirror either. Add that with the Buick right behind and he couldn't see the spark show following him.
As the sun started to rise and Daytona Beach was nearing, more and more cars and pedestrians were appearing. The ladies had nearly given up trying to get Gober to stop. There were still folks trying to wave him down, but he would just wave back as he thought it wasn't every day you saw a racecar on the street.
Finally, at a stop sign, someone ran up to Gober's window and explained that he was dragging a car behind him instead of towing one.
They did eventually reach the sandy shores of Daytona and while they were there, Gober was able to repair the family car before the race. There is another story of when both Gober's racecar and his tow car were entered in a Daytona race, but that's a story for another time.
Whether you're a participant or a spectator, I'd bet nearly everyone has a humorous story about getting to and from the track. Oftentimes, it's more exciting than what happened at the race itself.